(ThyBlackMan.com) Evaluating the benchmark hires of Sandra Douglass Morgan in NFL and Mike Grier in NHL by Mark Hines
There is no shortage of people of color playing professional sports. Most of the biggest names in professional sports are non-white athletes like LeBron James, Serena Williams, Lamar Jackson, and Fernando Tatis Jr. For decades, it has been more difficult to find people of color in executive leadership positions like team president or general manager for professional sports franchises. Often, white men have been in charge of choosing the talent on the playing field or court of professional team sports franchises. Despite the successes of Black sports executives like Ozzie Newsome of the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens or former Detroit Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars, most major professional team sports leagues do not have the same percentage of Black or Latinx team executives as they do Black or Latinx athletes playing professional sports. The road has been even tougher for women and especially women of color attempting to acquire executive positions in professional male sports leagues. Last month, there were two history-making hires in the National Hockey League and National Football League on the executive side that made considerable waves.
Sandra Douglass Morgan was hired by the Las Vegas Raiders in July 2022 as team president. She became the first Black woman to serve as a team president in NFL history. In a sports league like the NFL, Douglass Morgan’s credentials had to be impressive for her to be hired to that position and they are. Most recently, Douglass Morgan served on the board of directors at Caesars Entertainment and Allegiant Travel Co. She joined the boards in 2021 after serving as the chairwoman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board from 2019-20, where she helped guide Las Vegas gaming through the COVID-19 pandemic. She previously worked as commissioner of the Nevada Gaming Commission and as the North Las Vegas city attorney.
Regarding her the magnitude of her hire, Sandra Douglass Morgan remarked, “I definitely never want to be the last and I want to get to a point where there is no more firsts.” Her arrival to the Raiders coincides with some turbulence within the organization as previous Raiders president Dan Ventrelle said that he lost his job in retaliation for raising concerns about a hostile work environment. It will not be an easy tenure for Sandra Douglass Morgan as Las Vegas team president but she has various work experiences that will aid her.
The National Hockey League has major cultural issues related to the hockey’s historical hostility towards people of color in their past and present. Unlike the NBA and NFL, the talent playing the game in the NHL predominantly comes from Europe or European descent with very few Black or African athletes. The San Jose Sharks hiring of Mike Grier as the first Black general manager in NHL history is newsworthy as well. As a former NHL player for over a decade, Grier was notably involved in an on-ice racially-charged confrontation with another player back in 2007. Since his playing days, Grier has spent time as a scout in Chicago, an assistant coach in New Jersey and most recently, the hockey operations advisor for the New York Rangers. Interestingly, his brother, Chris, is currently a general manager of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins so Mike Grier can gain some advice from his brother regarding handling a major team executive role in professional sports.
Mike Grier did not shy away from the history of his hire. He said, “It’s something I’m extremely proud of. I realized there was a responsibility that comes with the territory, but I’m up for it [with] how I carry myself and how the organization carries themselves. … For me, my job is to do the best I can for the San Jose Sharks organization, and if I do that, hopefully it opens the door to give other opportunities to other minorities to get in front-office positions and maybe lead a team down the road as well.” It is always important for people to not shy from the history of racism and oppression that led to a hire being the “first” of its kind in the first place.
Staff Writer; Mark Hines